Guitar Hero 5 Updated Hands-On

Importing songs from previous games and exploring an easier, deeper music studio are the focus of our latest look at Guitar Hero 5.

Generally speaking, the last piece of news leading up to the release of a high-profile rhythm game is the announcement of a complete songlist. So when Activision unveiled the last batch of songs from Guitar Hero 5 a couple of weeks ago, you'd be forgiven for thinking there wasn't much left to show in this latest installment of the seminal rhythm franchise. More to the point: You'd be forgiven, but you'd also be wrong. A few days ago, Activision held an event here in San Francisco to show off some of the big new features it has been keeping under wraps these past few months.

The big news of the night was the announcement of forward compatibility with previous Guitar Hero games. If you take a look at your copy of Guitar Hero: World Tour or the more recently released Smash Hits, you'll see an ID code printed on the back of the manual. You can take that code, enter it into the Guitar Hero 5 Import Songs menu, and download an unspecified number of songs from that game after paying what Activision calls a "nominal relicensing fee" (don't get too worked up; Rock Band 2 made users pay $5 to import songs from the original game). So far, only World Tour and Smash Hits are confirmed, but it looks like other games from the Guitar Hero library will probably be supported as well. This feature is said to work the same in Band Hero and Guitar Hero 5.

The compatibility also extends to downloadable content originally released for Guitar Hero: World Tour. Activision says 152 of the 158 World Tour DLC songs will be supported in Guitar Hero 5. What you'll need to do is download a free update, which adds on new features, such as band moments and vocal star power, that weren't present in World Tour. These songs will then be playable in all the major game modes in Guitar Hero 5, including Career mode and the new Party Play mode that we detailed in our last look at the game.

Another big focus for the evening was the unveiling of modifications made to the music studio that debuted in World Tour, which allows players to create their own songs for the first time in the series. It has been heavily revamped in a number of ways, starting with GH Mix 2.0. Neversoft wanted to take the original studio and make it more accessible from a usability and interface standpoint while adding even more depth for advanced users. In terms of making the system easier to use, all major functions (like record) have been mapped to the five colored fret buttons, which means there's a lot less scrolling around to highlight the option you want to select. You can also rewind and fast-forward through your song using the whammy bar, going slowly by pressing lightly or speeding through the song by holding it all the way down. Additionally, you can go into the new Pattern mode to swap around giant chunks of your song, moving entire verses, choruses, and bridges as easily as you would move colored blocks on the screen.

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Neversoft has also devoted a lot of attention to making sure the instruments have a more authentic sound when you're recording songs. As an example, guitar work is now velocity sensitive, which means the studio can tell the difference between a light and heavy strum, reflecting that in your ability to record quiet, subdued parts versus louder parts. You can also add note expressions to guitar riffs, such as bends, slides, and vibrato. If you don't like a particular note, you can edit each specific note with a variety of parameters without rerecording that entire riff. Professional instrument samples have been added to every instrument as well, creating a much more realistic tone than the one offered in World Tour.

If GH Mix 2.0 is for advanced users, then GH Jam is for casual ones. In this mode, you can select a musical style, then jump right in and either play with a complete band made up of your friends or by yourself with automated instrument backing parts provided by the game. You can choose from 14 musical styles that influence the sound of the instruments, including punk, classic rock, heavy metal, and even NES-style chip tunes. You'll get a visualizer on the screen that matches your musical style as you play, including psychedelic colors for classic rock and 8-bit sprites for chip tunes.

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Some of the other enhancements you'll find in the studio have to do with the way sharing songs work in GH Tunes. The system of ranking and finding songs other users have uploaded works very similarly to how it did in World Tour, but the big difference now is in how much you can share. The song time limit has been extended from three minutes to 10 minutes, while the maximum number of songs you can upload has gone from five to 50. If there's one bit of bad news, it's that you can't edit songs created in World Tour's music studio and use all the new effects and options, but certainly, the improvements look like they should outweigh the bad. You can start recordings songs on your own when Guitar Hero 5 arrives on September 1.

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117 comments
chitarralove
chitarralove

My guitar broke so I ended up buy GH5 just so I could get a new guitar because apparently you just can't buy a guitar any more. I saw some well welcomed features like the party play and the improvements to the music studio, but besides those minor things the game is pretty much the same as GH World Tour. The idea of importing songs is great, but why should I have to pay for them if I already bought the game? I realize it's only $3.49, but I still shouldn't be required to pay that. I agree with many others in that they shouldn't continuously release new games, but instead offer new songs as DLC.

khariss
khariss

lol why would i pay to get the world tour songs on this game when i can just play world tour

Sea666
Sea666

"Hello! I'm Johnny Cash." ... GH 5 = best in series.

dozdestroyer
dozdestroyer

Why do people aways come like "go play a real guitar" ? That is an old as it is a weak agument. So it means just because i play a game, im in fact, avoiding putting on gloves and go boxing for real against Michael Tyson ??? Or playing golf against Tiger Woods ? ITS A GAME FOR CHRIST SAKE!!!!! I PLAY BECAUSE I LIKE IT !!!! IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ME CHOOSING PLAYING THIS GAME OVER PLAYING REAL GUITAR

Elite4ceMullen
Elite4ceMullen

I cant say im shocked that theres not 1 but 2 guitar hero games comming out so soon after metallica, but im dissapointed. The only new features that seem to be worth a new title is the part play, were it is easier just to pick up and join in without all the stopping and load times. The on the fly character changes and band changes will help as well, but really? 60 bucks for another 80 songs (prob only about 25 or 30 worth playing twice). I like guitar hero alot and will continue to play the games, but i feel like they dropped a rufee in my drink and waiting for me to pass out so they can take advantage of me. 3 games all within, what? 4 or 5 months time(when they could have been DLC)? There just milking it for money now =(

jpsportz
jpsportz

Bioshockraptor you CAN use your Guitar from World tour The new guitar looks great but why and silver, chrome or whatever it is? I like the faceplate though. Graphics improved. Importing songs from Smash hits and world tour is good. I think this one will be successful....

Bioshockraptor
Bioshockraptor

Don't reckon I'll be getting it this holiday season. Might wait for the price to die down a little and get the disc. I can use my World Tour guitar right?

FF_fan2004
FF_fan2004

World Tour had songs I didn't like but that's only because my taste in music is completely different. Greatest Hits...well already covered that in my review... But at least they had a lot of songs I liked from the 1st ever GH. I still can't play the far later songs on medium especially Dragonforce. Now I've stuck bags of frozen peas on my arms from the sheer strain of playing it.

towely62
towely62

both my gh3 and world tour guitars broke glad to hear their fixing those problems by making a better guitar.

lukas1051
lukas1051

The forwards compatibility is enough to warrant a purchase IMO GH4, Smash Hits, and maybe even GH3 setlists all on the same game PLUS the setlist in this game is well worth the money. In terms of new content, this doesn't look THAT amazing, but as one central polished game for all my GH songs, I think it's going to be great.

kickballer
kickballer

THANK YOU!!!! I hated the World Tour guitar.

stoney-boy69
stoney-boy69

guitar hero 5 will b the same. wanna bees who think their playing a real guitar. let me tell you. its alot hader playing a real guitar than playing a videogame. get off the stupid game and actually learn to play an instrument. the world is getting so freaking lazy now.

razor990
razor990

These games are getting milked way too much. How many are released a year? They should at least take the same route as Rock band and release DLC instead of a new game (and numerous spinoffs) every year.

solidniko
solidniko

i dont hink im gonna get this i didnt get GH4 cuz i got rock band 2 istead

Osnic
Osnic

*Sign* Now it really feels like they have to stop making those games. I mean c'mon! They're exactly the same only something that looks different and other song! Why can't they just realeaase downloadable songs for the latest game or maybe the game before that! Instead of making a new one! It feels so....you know the first 2 games ands tuff like that and so on. It's fun but how many Guitar Hero games are they going to make??? Just a question.

FF_fan2004
FF_fan2004

@madSomnambulist That's the unfortuate truth, I guess I let my taste in mteal cloud my judgment... But still they do need to address their graphics engine and the difficulty balance. It still looks like a PS2 game (I have 360 game of GH greatest hits and it looks rubbish graphics -wise). And the difficulty on normal has become a lot harder than it was when it first released its GH1 game. They also need to provide an extensive DLC that ranges from all kinds of Rock genres from the classics founders through to the new ages. Generics can be a little too much.

madSomnambulist
madSomnambulist

@ FF_fan You talk about the "proper demographic" of this game and how it's people who prefer metal. Unfortunately, you won't be able to convince Activision that that's true. In a perfect world that would be who they could gear the game toward, but it's just not possible. They don't see that as their target demographic... they're aiming for as much 'generic public' as possible to sell the most copies. It's the unfortunate truth of this industry. You have to aim really far down the hierarchy to lower-budget companies that will release almost nothing but fan-desired titles. BUT, this doesn't mean they shouldn't at least offer the choices in DLC or other packs. The whole point of add-ons is that you can pick what you like. They have zero excuse not to offer it there.

FF_fan2004
FF_fan2004

Agreed, in fact I have a better idea. How about they make a guitar hero that's actually suitable for proper demographics with actual tastes i.e. most of us metal-heads. I'm a big huge fan of Download festival and been to this year's, most of the bands I've heard there were mind-blowingly awesome. Metal, METAL, METAL and classic ROCK!!! Give us Slipknot, Faith No More, Def Leppard. Also while your at it chuck in some really good European lot like Within Temptation, Nightwish, Leaves' Eyes Tyr and so on and so forth. The kind of symphonic metal that has good drums and guitars in it. Let's not stop there, Activision, if you're reading this; you really need to address your game engine which still looks horrible like the PS2 generation and the notes. It still looks like a PS2 for next gen and still has more button mashing than me trying to play Street Fighter (also failing miserable) while needing to duct-tape bags of frozen peas due to repetitive strain injury. Maybe I should sue...hmm...

TheDarkFortress
TheDarkFortress

megadeth megadeth MEGADETH, there hasnt been a megadeth song on gh since 2,

TheDarkFortress
TheDarkFortress

please please please PLEASE put good music on, some metal would be nice, like amon amarth and opeth, the last couple games really lack heavier music, metallica was good but there not THAT heavy, a couple death metal bands wold be nice..and wtf get rid of all the soft music

madSomnambulist
madSomnambulist

Importing songs? Given people need to buy a fresh full-price title every year in GH it's just an insult to make regulars pay to bring them in. I don't care if most all the World Tour songs can carry over... series junkies have coughed up probably $500+ toward the game at this point. Fan appreciation please? I'd have far more faith in the GH franchise if they could actually pick an engine and stick with it for more than 6 months before announcing a new one. Studio? Substantial meh for 90%+ of buyers. Songs? Let people pick what they want via DLC or smaller add-on discs like Rockband has done instead of demanding full price for the same thing year after year.

BigBoss7460
BigBoss7460

I'm sick of music games. Especially Guitar Hero. And I hate when people complain about the music selection... People need to appreciate more music instead of trying to be cool and stick with classic stuff. There are plenty of newer bands that are just as good, if not better, than some classic bands. And AC/DC is the most overrated piece of crap. Their bassist and drummer aren't even that good. Also the fact that all their songs are pretty much the same thing.

game_buddy64
game_buddy64

Jinjiboo there going to show all of them at the release date and im sure theres going to be metallica they f****** rock!!!!!!! cant wait!!!!

Jinjiboo
Jinjiboo

Okay....Iron Maiden and Nirvana....Keep going, give us some more real music. I didn't see any Metallica, AC/DC, Black Sabbath or Judas Priest in there. Nothing but crappy Pop and what idiots call "Indie". But Rammstein? That's going too far.

ITQcaleb
ITQcaleb

@bullethead: Last time I checked, the music games were doing better in sells. Also note that Audiosurf is pretty addicting, period.

Yo-gan
Yo-gan

importing song sounds good, but is it gonna take up a collosal amount of memory on the hard drive? ive only got a 20gig and im running out of space..:?

MFazio23
MFazio23

@bullethead182 Then why are you in an article about music games?

Mental_Gear
Mental_Gear

For the first main three games (1 and 2 in particular) it felt very fresh, but as of late (with WT and 5) I've looked at the setlist, brushed over, said 'that will be nice' at a couple songs then gone to play something else. It's fun but the novelty's kind of wearing off. The setlist pretty much peaked in the first one...

dantedx1
dantedx1

RB or GH should just make an empty game where they just let you choose like 30 songs for free, any of the songs of any of the games or DLCs. if you want to add more you gotta buy it or import it. and IMPORTING should be free. THAT would be the perfect music game.

real-guitarhero
real-guitarhero

the game isnt wat matters its the damn songs... and 90% of them are utter nonsense..

mercutio1234
mercutio1234

wtf i have an old copy of world tour and smash hits am i gunna have to buy an extra unlock code from activision to get my dlc?!

score89
score89

If GH Metallica cant be exported i wont buy the game If GH Metallica can be exported, i'll probably buy GH Greatest Hits to GHWT 's setlist sucked

DeathByControl
DeathByControl

y would u want to import ur songs when this is basically the same game with drop-in drop-out features? or did i miss something and there r actually more features?

Liferow
Liferow

Used 2 play guitar hero 3 all the time. It's just getting played out for me. It's not even special when a new guitar hero game comes out anymore. It's like every 6 months there's a new one or an expansion.

otanikun
otanikun

Well from what I see so far with the songs, there is still an awful lot of suck; me thinks also they're trying to overcompensate for Rock Band 2 being so much more awesome. The features are things that should have been in World Tour to begin with, for the sake of simplicity lets just all call this World Tour 2.

jmrwacko
jmrwacko

I hope they improve the drum peripheral. The GH:WT drumset was absolutely terrible. No rebound whatsoever.

Paul2005
Paul2005

i dont care about new stuff cause this is going to be my first guitar hero. and i never had rock band either.

Dynamo11
Dynamo11

Before I was wavering at GH5s adequate setlist, but these features really seal the deal with me!!! Can't wait 'til its out next month...

auron_16
auron_16

... are there new peripherals??

Andraus
Andraus

Great Game Cant Wait!!!

DuTCHy-Allen
DuTCHy-Allen

good point 2fistsintheair, lots of people complain about what they cant do and when they get it there still not happy, people even complain about activision milking the series but at the end of the day your the fool to buy it so stop complaining!! Guitar hero is well worthy of my money keep up the good work